Queen's Speech: All the pomp, but very bizarre circumstances

Queen's Speech Image copyright AFP/ Getty Images

There was all of the usual pomp, but today took place in very bizarre circumstances indeed.

Traditionally, of course, the Queen's Speech is an enormously significant political day - the occasion when a government reveals its intentions to the world, the promises it will actually try to keep, rather than the ones it made to anyone who was listening during an election campaign.

This time, the Queen's Speech might have almost no meaning at all unless the prime minister can keep the one big promise that he made months ago: to take us out of the European Union by the end of this month.

Normally the golden carriage makes its way down Whitehall just after we've all been to the ballot box.

This time the monarch brought her most glorious sparkles to Parliament probably weeks from a campaign getting under way.

The most important events today really aren't even in Westminster at all, despite the delights of the marching bands, the plumage of the ceremonial hats.

But what's vital is what's going on behind a very small number of closed doors in Brussels where officials from the UK and the EU are thrashing through what might be Boris Johnson's escape route, and the country's exit from the EU.

Hands up: although there are thousands of column inches on what a potential deal might be, the truth is only that tiny group of officials inside the talks and their political bosses really know exactly what is happening.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Talks between the EU and the UK, led by envoy David Frost, pictured, have intensified in recent days

Even members of the Cabinet who were briefed on what's happening by the prime minister are pretty much blind.

One of them told me, "I don't, as a cabinet member, need to know."

Another said, "We are still in the middle of the forest!"

What is clear, though, is that there are some potential compromises after the EU rejected the Prime Minister's original plan - you can read about it here.

And there is a bit of flexibility on both sides from the current round of talks.

The EU has conceded that Northern Ireland will leave the EU customs union with the rest of the UK.

The UK has accepted that it will have to change its idea of how Northern Ireland would be given a say - the Stormont Lock.

Crucially too, the EU now will allow talks to go on all the way up until the summit on Thursday, rather than insisting that a deal has to be ready to go tomorrow.

There is therefore a little more time to find a compromise, if there is one that can be done.

Warning - that doesn't mean that a deal will definitely be done.

Or then, that it could pass through Parliament if it's agreed in time.

But what is happening today in the corridors of Brussels matters more than anything the Queen came to Parliament to say.

Her speech - more a draft of the Tory Party manifesto with its most important page missing - will the party's promise in the likely election be to take us out of the European Union, or, if in the unlikely event a deal has already been done, promises of what comes next.

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